At the beginning of April, the Pennsylvania House passed a $31.5 billion general fund budget. Since then there has been an overwhelming silence on the budget in the Senate. The deadline for passing the budget is fast approaching, and there are troubling signs coming from the Capitol.
A recent report from the Associated Press describes it as a "get out of town" budget. In other words, lawmakers are planning on avoiding making any tough decisions on spending reform. Instead, they are exploring a variety of quick fix solutions that paper over the fiscal problems that the Commonwealth faces. Senate Republicans are considering another one-time solution in borrowing money and using the tobacco settlement fund as collateral.
The Commonwealth’s current financial predicament is due to years of overspending and an unwillingness to enact pro-growth economic policies. This year the problem was exacerbated by lower than expected tax revenues and a budget that spent too much last year. Until politicians start looking further ahead than the next election and adopting long-term fixes, we can expect the budget drama to continue to play out.
One step toward restoring some sanity to the budget process would be to enact performance based budgeting. Performance based budgeting would measure whether or not a program or agency is meeting their objectives. If the goals are being met, then the funding continues; if not the money goes somewhere else. The House recently passed HB 510 (sponsored by CAP member, Rep. Ryan Warner) to make this necessary change.
We will keep you posted as the budget process continues, and let you know if the Senate takes action on performance based budgeting for the future.